Learning to Live in the Tides – Peace in Perpetual Change

“When one door closes, another door opens, but the hallways are a bitch.”

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“When one door closes, another door opens, but the hallways are a bitch.” – How to Survive the Loss of a Love

“If you are still looking for that one person that will change your life, look in the mirror.” – Roman Price

There’s a cliché that people speak about that always kind of pissed me off. “The only thing constant is change.” Well, sure. Obviously, I’m not living in a bubble that is void of time and space. I keep getting older as each day approaches the next birthday…but how does hearing that simple sentence make a person feel better when life appears to be in turmoil or in the midst of a huge life transition? Or even a minuscule life transition? Fluctuations of the daily routine is transition in itself. In the analogy of a construction detour, or a massive slowdown of traffic, the GPS may not be able to suddenly announce “a faster route is now available.” What then?

If you’re like me, that saying of “change is constant,” is like hearing someone say, “Well, if this is happening to you, it’s because God thinks you’re strong enough to handle it.” That sort of advice rarely seems to bring empowerment to the person experiencing the effects of change. If anything, I often interpret it as a way for the listener to “stay positive,” and shrug off the heaviness of another’s situation. Life is seldom easy. Even if we were to have all the money and material power in the world, it would not negate the fact that we have to deal with this human mind.

At its worst, this mind craves pleasure and quick fixes, while the ego of the mind wants to control just about anything we can think of. It can bring us to dwell in the past, project into the future, and rarely allow us to arrive in the present. “Living in the moment,” whether we’re in a yoga class, driving to work, or taking a shower, can be one of the most difficult and spiritually demanding tasks. It takes a complete re-configuring of the mind in order to allow it to work for us, rather than against us. It is a daily, moment to moment practice.

In writing this today, I am not seeking to preach about how to “get over” change. That’s impossible. Instead, my aim is to present a reminder that living in transition is our human nature. We were born to be creative, wise, powerful manifestations of the Divine (or the Great Spirit, Source, the Universe, whatever you’d like to call it). Knowing that we are made of cosmic energy from the stars – literally, knowing that the same atomic elements that exist in the stars are present in our bodies – may help us understand that we are meant to be ever evolving and ever transforming to shine even brighter and better than we thought possible.

Being connected by the stars, I feel strongly that the movements in the cosmos have a profound influence upon us. If the subtle change in temperature or seasons can create shifts in the body, it makes sense that the subtle shifts in the alignment of the moon, the stars, and the astrological aspects can affect the planet and its people (we are, after all, living on a floating orb in space).

With the full moon in Pisces last night, I attended a full moon flow at the yoga studio in my hometown. It was a day of crazy, scattered energy in many ways, and one of the first times I actually did not feel up for going to yoga. I had not been sleeping well and felt generally exhausted and emotional. For me, most full moons have either brought a need to go wild and adventure outside, and/or a need to go into deep solitude and quiet reflection. I reached out to friends to come along for class, but they felt energetically similar and decided to pass on the offer. Because I committed to going in advance, I knew I would not be staying back. I also wanted to be there for my mom. She and I took our first class together this past Sunday, and it was a beautiful gift to practice with her and begin witnessing her newfound awakening with and appreciation for yoga. She received her cancer diagnosis at the end of this past May, and we’ve celebrated and mourned the range of good news, bad news, and the combination of both since then. More on that in another post.

In the past few days, my mom has become my greatest teacher in reminding me what this practice gives. She spoke of feeling so deeply relaxed and peaceful; something she “could have used all summer.” She has since come to three classes with me in this week, including a yin class I teach on Tuesdays. In her words, she mentioned the difference between laying down and assuming she is relaxing, versus laying down and feeling a deep peace and relaxation. When we practice conscious relaxation to reverse the damaging effects of stress in our minds and lives, we open ourselves to vibrate at a higher frequency. It is a gift to watch the healing medicine of yoga and meditation begin to work its magic on someone for the first time, especially a loved one who is dear to my heart.

A blessing for the full moon was given at the beginning and end of class: “I move through the cycles, phases, and transitions of my life with grace and peace.”

It was accompanied with a mudra (hand position) related to integrating and balancing the hemispheres of the body; the divine masculine and the divine feminine energy channels that resides in us. The teacher spoke of the moon going in phases and cycles. We twisted and bowed to the dark side of the moon. We honored and paid respect to the dark side we have within us too. We breathed in sacred mountain stance (tadasana), as if we stood by our favorite ocean or lake, syncing our breath with the tides, bathing in the glow of the full moon upon us.

Shortly before this meditative moment, I completely fell on my butt during half-moon posture and laughed. Before that moment, a voice came into my head and asked, “Can you let go? Of all of it? Your relationships, your ideas, your plans?”

The answer was, and always will be, yes.

Everything is in perfect timing.

Appropriately, we came into savasana (corpse pose) at the end of this class, as with the majority of yoga classes. Each time I come into this pose, laying on my spine, letting go of all work in the body, I always feel like I am connecting with death. In this moment of total surrender, I feel a release of all the things I think I am, all that has made up this life thus far and the journey I have traveled. It feels as if nothing has existed but a dream. It brings a return to the truth that I am simply energy, vibrating in space. I am not my name, my age, my job, my body, or my interests. I am the whole manifestation of the universe, created in my being (as are you). In this moment of death, relinquishing all control, I find God. I find Spirit. On this mat, in a room without furniture, in a place of candles, stillness, bodies, and breath, I am in a new moment. This moment, like all moments, is home.

In this next month, I invite you to breathe in your fullness. To hold space for yourself, in your light and in your darkness. To stand on top of your personal mountain, looking out at the trails you have trekked. To honor the blisters and bruises that have touched your body. To honor the marks that have touched your heart. To bow into all of this evidence that you are alive. You are here. You are needed. Exactly as you are. Exactly where you are. I invite you to let yourself go with the tides and let them carry you. Leave your expectations, resentments, attachments, and ideas of right doing and wrong doing on the shore.

A Rumi poem that emanates this feeling:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.”

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With love and gratitude,

~Bonnie

(P.s. here are some full moon insights for the Pisces rising moon,

http://www.mysticmamma.com/full-moon-in-pisces-september-6th-2017/

as well as a link to an astrologer, Kaypacha Lescher, who makes awesome weekly videos about what’s flowing on. 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEsXTOCDLXUEZ83wxu9OfpQ)

 

I’m Only Light Because I Have Darkness

The “happy yogi” of light, cannot and does not exist without his/her share of darkness.

I recently read an article called “Not Everyone Who Practices Yoga is Happy (and That’s Okay).” The title alone caught my eye, but I wasn’t quite sure how relevant it would be to me right now. I understood the overall concept that yoga is for processing and experiencing wherever you are at. I’ve cried on the mat, I’ve been angry on the mat, and at my times of grief and loss, when movement itself brought waves of emotion, the only pose I could bring myself to was child’s pose. In reading this headline, I thought, “Well, sure not everyone is happy, but yoga generates a higher level of happiness overall…” It was shortly after that thought, that I noticed I was equating happiness with contentment or peace. The practice can generate more peace for a person, as they accept wherever they are at and flow with it, but having peace doesn’t mean one is happy about the apparent state of their life.

Let’s talk about happiness and sadness in yoga. On a basic level, yoga can help to generate happiness by increasing self awareness on all fronts. By becoming aware of one’s thoughts, the practice can empower a yogi to make choices in which thoughts he/she chooses to focus on, as well as which thoughts to let go of. A practitioner of yoga can start to liberate their mind from thought patterns that get in the way of staying present. If one is balancing on one leg with her eyes closed, unsure if she can keep standing, it’s a lot more difficult to think about whether or not her text message sent before class received an expected reply. In the physical sense, by moving energy that may be blocked in the body, one can free up the body and breath to receive new, cleansing energy. Perhaps one even finds, my personal favorite, that extra bit of magical wonder in the way one’s toes move and support the weight of one’s body; feeling silly and humbled when one stumbles out of half-moon pose time and time again.

Outside of the mat land, I’ve found that we yoga teachers and practitioners often aspire to maintain that wanderlust and wonderful outlook with all that we interact with. I’ve been told that life can often be considered a series of uncomfortable poses, followed by periods of release and ease, integrating what we learned from the tough times. We relish in the goodness, when it comes, because we know how long and how miserable it has often felt to not have that goodness and sense of arriving back home to our peaceful state of being. As a friend of mine once said about having a soulful connection with someone: “It’s like catching a piece of driftwood after treading in the ocean.”

I love Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms practice and philosophy of Waves. Everything goes in waves of chaos and calm; even in the stillness, energy is moving. That energy may or may not always be positive, but the goal in practice, is often to feel whatever that feeling is, and wade in the water until the next wave comes through. In the end, perhaps we will be like a rock that is secure in the sand, allowing the waves to wash away all that is inhibiting us, while inviting incoming waves to bring in the new energy, motivations, and realizations we are seeking. Like Brandi Carlile’s song, “The Eye,” so beautifully states: “You might make it farther, if you learn to stay.”

What I would truly like to address in this idea of the “happy yogi” persona, are some examples of how it has often been misconstrued or misunderstood in my relationships with others. In a previous intimate partnership, I began reading Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in LoveI asked a question that the book suggested for asking one’s partner (and I now share this question for all of my friends to ask honestly with their loved ones).

 “What’s the hardest part about being in a relationship with me?” I was expecting the answer to be an obvious remark about the distance (as we spent much time apart), but what I received was: “You’re so positive about everything. Sometimes it’s hard to match energy on that level.”

This was shocking to me. For one, I never imagined someone would feel a need to rise up to a certain level of positivity. Similar to the saying that “yoga meets you where you are at,” so too, have I felt the same about all of the lovers that have been beautifully woven in and out of my life. If we are together, I care about you and accept you, just the way you are. Come as you are. Be all of your perfect imperfections. I’m here to learn and grow with you. Let’s celebrate life and laugh a little (or a lot)!

Of all things one might hear as detrimental or challenging to a partner, positivity was surprisingly, a factor in this case. Undoubtedly, my bright spirit had brought smiles to this person’s face, like the morning I called crying about a centipede whose leg I had dismembered while trying to take it outside of the shower. The gentle spirit and reverence for life that I tend to be known for, was something this person admired and appreciated. We instantly apologized for an argument on an issue the night before. A dispute seemed so trivial in the simple moments of starting a new day, being alive, and being moved by the creatures on this Earth. I’ve noticed how that sort of mentality can have a profound effect on others, potentially even shifting their perspective.

In both negative and positive ways.

My partner at the time was receptive to having a “hippie snow white” in their life; one who was marveled with the world. At other times, like this comment of being challenged by dating someone genuinely happy most of the time, I realized that it can be easy for someone to feel shut down in the presence of light. Especially if one is not used to receiving that sort of energy. It can bring up a fear of the unknown or a discomfort that is both intriguing and terrifying. To be around someone with a higher vibrational energy, essentially “stirs the pot” in a new way. If one cannot see or experience happiness in the same way that comes easily for their partner, it may feel like one is “missing” something. Or, perhaps the joyous yogi is holding up a mirror that accentuates someone else’s own darkness, rather than their inherent light. This darkness may be one that a person does not want to acknowledge or deal with.

That is okay, by the way. We are all on our own authentic journey. All things have their own time and place to unfold and rise to the surface. Regardless of who is with us at the moment, we will ultimately face our own battles in our own way, when the time is right, or when we want to. Though the person with are in relationship with may inadvertently expedite or procrastinate the awakening process, Hannah Hart puts it well in her recent book: “We all buffer at our own speed.”

The reason for writing this, when I have never felt such an impulse to write a blog post, is this message that I want to write and speak again and again for anyone who feels unable to relate, or understand how, or why, positive people can be so damn positive. I would not be this light, if I hadn’t faced great darkness. And continue to. Reread that please. Once more.

There have been beautiful times of abundance in my life, where I have felt like I am riding the magic carpet of the universe; taking on new opportunities, traveling to new places, and connecting with other souls in meaningful ways. Those sort of spiritual highs are what can bring me such ecstasy to be alive on the Earth. However, what isn’t always shown on the snapshots of these moments on social media, is the fact that I have faced my demons many times to get to these places (and sometimes they want to come visit again).

I remember a moment in high school, where I laid down in a snow covered forest, the breathtaking moon above in the winter night sky, sobbing over a lover whose path revealed that is was time to divert from mine. Listening to pure silence as the snow fell, I wanted to disappear into the ground. A few years later, a horrible injury left me to experience physical pain that made walking and sitting comfortably impossible, let alone one of my greatest loves: dancing. In other times, I have felt completely unsafe in moments, thinking that the world was about to crash to its end.

Sometimes, this darkness has even felt good; the seductive “badness” of rebelling. The darkness that once led me to have my first cigarette outside a club, after resisting going out at all, distraught over an event that had happened, but leaving the house in a “f*ck the world” mentality. The same darkness that led me to invite a stranger over because I was lonely in a new city, longing for the person I truly loved, whose response to my love confession the night before was, “…it’s late, I should probably go.” In some moments, how badass and sexy I felt! Or how beautifully dramatic it was to drink some bottles of alcohol and feel like a tragic, heartbroken human listening to songs of loss.

Reflecting on those specific moments, more often than not, the darkness has given way to the light. By feeling the lowest of lows and howling from the depths of this body, these little moments that always follow – passing chipmunks, flying dragonflies, calls of blue jays, and the flower that grows alone in the grass – have been godsends in themselves. They are teachers in their own ways. They come at the perfect moments to teach a perfect lesson. Whether I learn it then or later is another story. Over time of practicing and observing in this way, I learned to celebrate this light in its little ways, and then in its major ways. I came to celebrate every human who would share a smile or a story. In that moment of exchange, they could provide the basic desires so many of us want: to be seen and to be heard. To be acknowledged that yes, we are alive and living through this crazy world. We are not alone. Ever.

I found the magic of singing and dancing in community. I discovered how crucial and imperative it is to have others for healing. Solitude, meditation, and prayer definitely have their places in the healing process, but to feel the energy of other humans gathering, to witness their darkness and their light, is remarkable. In writing, I find it nearly impossible to describe. It is in the moments of a circle gathering, that I feel like we are all touching base after living on Earth for this amount of time. “What have YOU learned? I learned part of that last month! I’m still working on this though. You as well? Wow. What do you think about this…I can’t seem to shake that off at all…” and it goes on.

What I hope is emanating through these words is that, when you break down the yogi, she only knows that light because she has seen and felt her utmost darkness. Undoubtedly, she will feel it again. She may be feeling that dark place every day, for moments at a time. The beauty and wonder she has for life may be her mode of operation 85% of the time, but like a yin yang symbol, she cannot be light without darkness, and even in her darkness, it is in her practice over time that she can begin to teach herself to shine. She learns from the teachers before her, and she starts to generate her own light, to bear witness to the light that exists just beyond the shadows. She too, can become a light for others, passing the flame in the dark. Shining can become easier as she progresses on this path of light and love, but through periods of life, that light may have to dim to conserve energy for what needs to be healed within. That is okay. She will welcome it and bow to it. She will bow to it all the same.

I have not experienced the pain and suffering of all beings and their journeys, of course, but what I can say is that we truly are in this together. If we can believe we are worthy of company on this path, if we can open our hearts to the fellow soul travelers our paths cross with, we might just find that we’re not so lost in the woods and alone. There may be someone carrying a flashlight with just enough battery to help lead you back home; you may emerge with more light than either of you thought possible. Suddenly, the detour may become all the more worthwhile.

May you be blessed in your light, and in your darkness, as one.

~Bonnie

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